We are busy all day, aren’t we? We feel tired at the end of each day. Still, most people will want to do something at some point in the day. We have goals and ambitions, hopes and dreams. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, even as we contemplate sleeping in late or lounging on the beach. Lazing about all day may sound attractive when we are too tired or overwhelmed, but it wouldn’t be a great long-term plan, would it? It would not help us move toward living a purpose filled life.
Even though we sometimes think we don’t have enough time, actually it’s how we spend our time that makes the difference. Agreed?
Life is a real gift, isn’t it? Even when life gets tough, we still know it’s wonderful to be alive. One of our jobs in life is to appreciate the gift of life by doing what feels good, pursuing what feels meaningful to us, and living a purpose filled life. We all agree that life is short, so it’s crucial that we empower that part of us that I call THE DECIDER to help us pick the right path for our life. Who is THE DECIDER? Read more about that here.
Bring forth that which is within you.
“If you bring forth what is within, it will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Jordan Peterson, Author of Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
Mr. Peterson reminds us that if we don’t summon the courage to be THE DECIDER, and pursue that which is meaningful to us, we might become weaker, emotionally and psychologically, and then we won’t like our life. This awareness is powerful! Happiness, success, and meaning are there for everyone, as part of the gift of life, but we have to CHOOSE to bring forth that which is within us!
Reason #1: Why we aren't living a purpose filled life.
We have to CHOOSE to bring forth that which is within us. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is simple, but maybe not be so easy. Living a purpose filled life means bringing our unique gifts (that which is within us) out of hiding and expressing those gifts every day. The expression of our unique gifts contributes to making the world a better place. When we contribute, we feel good. When we contribute, we feel like we are living with purpose.
There is only one problem. Well, there may be more than one, but let’s look at one that you may not realize is a problem.
What amount of time and energy do you devote to doing what you should be doing in your life, instead of what you feel deep inside you are set out to be doing?
Do you spend your precious time and life force being who you SHOULD be, instead of who you were BORN to be?
I think about my mother, who went to college three states away from where she grew up because she wanted a BIG life. My mother met my father taking flying lessons in a small town in Idaho. She was the first licensed female pilot in the state. My mother had BIG dreams of owning her own business, of traveling the world. But when she married, she succumbed to the you should message of her generation. She stayed home, had children, made dinner every night, sewed costumes for her children’s activities, entertained her husband’s business associates on the weekend. My mother had a great life, but she was miserable…and we all knew it.
My sisters and I learned from our mother. My oldest sister worked for an insurance company instead of becoming an artist. Instead of becoming an organic gardener, my next oldest sister worked for the forest service. And I worked for a bank instead of becoming a teacher and psychologist. We abandoned our dreams and followed the SHOULDs we learned from society and our family.
At least until we were lucky enough to wake up and figure out, we actually COULD be who we wanted to be.
What SHOULD do you have in your life?
Do you stay at a job you hate for the money, even though you’d rather open a bakery? Do you keep going to the same church, even though you no longer agree with its teachings? Are you in a relationship that no longer supports your growth? Do you struggle to pay the bills of a lifestyle you never wanted in the first place?
Do you see how living our SHOULDS could be stealing valuable time and energy from living a purpose filled life?
Exercise: How I Live a SHOULD Life
Consider your life. Where in your life might you be living a SHOULD instead of living a purpose filled life? Think about Eight Life Dimensions - Physical Health/Wellness, Mental & Emotional Well-Being, Professional/Career, Personal Development, Financial, Recreation, Spiritual Health, and Relationships and list up to five ways you might be living a SHOULD.
Here are some Examples:
1. I SHOULD work for a corporation for the benefits…
2. I SHOULD lose weight….
3. I SHOULD buy a bigger house….
4. I SHOULD enjoy football with my husband….
5. I SHOULD have more children….
Once you have your list of SHOULDs, circle the top two should statements that have had the most significant influence in your life recently.
Now that you are taking a hard look at two areas of your life that you consider a SHOULD ask yourself, Is this what I want?
Why do we live SHOULDs in our lives, instead of pursuing our dreams or doing more of what we want to be doing? Some possible answers are:
-There are powerful messages we get every day from popular culture
-We want people to like and approve of us -
We want life to be easy
-We want to do it right
Why do you live the SHOULDs that you identified?
Asking someone else what we should sometimes do is all well and good, like when we ask if we should wear the blue dress or the green one. But when we allow others to make our choices for us, we lose the opportunity to bring forth that which is within us and follow the path our life is set out to take. When we allow others to control us, it contributes to feelings of inadequacy, and we miss the opportunity to learn and grow. When we feel inadequate, we often don’t try new things. Instead of committing to creating our own meaningful life and living a purpose filled life, we usually go along to get along.
Are you going along to get along?
Caving in to social pressure, from something as simple as saying you loved a movie because your friends did, to staying in your hometown after high school instead of moving to the city, creates good feelings about being a part of a group. But caving and going along to get along, following what other people tell you that you should think, feel or do, leads to more of the same behavior. You can feel it in your body if you pay attention. When you feel bad, but don’t know why, it’s a sign you aren’t bringing forth your brilliance, your light. When you feel good, it’s because you are! Take a look, see if that’s true for you!
Going along to get along, doing what people tell you that YOU SHOULD do, is how you become STUCK in a life you say you don’t like!
According to a professor of sociology, conformity leads to positive feelings, attachments, solidarity, which motivates us to continue the same behavior. This continuation can be great news unless you are repeating behavior that is taking you down the wrong path stopping you from living a purpose filled life. Being a part of a group can feel great. But, expressing your true gifts feels even better!
Reason #2: Why we aren't living a purpose-filled life.
We allow SHOULD messages to rob us of the life we are set out to live! And most of us do this habitually, and don’t even recognize it. We don’t feel our life has any meaning and wonder why! There is another problem that is keeping us stuck in a mediocre life and holding us back from living a purpose filled life.
Have you had something important taken away from you? If you have, I imagine that losing it hurt! Did you lose a job you loved, have to sell your dream home, or a meaningful relationship ended? I’ve lost all these things during my life, so I know how it feels. Yucky! Really yucky!
Have you worked hard for something you wanted, and yet it never happened? Me too!
What was your response to the loss of something important in your life or not getting something you put so much work into?
Perhaps you decided you never wanted to try again, or you stopped working so hard, or you decided you didn’t want it that much anyway. Maybe you gave up!
When we lose something or don’t get what we want, we often stop allowing ourselves to dream or to want things. When we feel that inner tug of wanting, we shut it down before it can get its teeth into us and make us do things that we end up regretting.
Have you ever noticed this happening to you?
Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to want things because failure and loss are so darn PAINFUL! When we stop ourselves from wanting things, and the truth is that we do that over and over. Then, our desire for things, our natural feeling of WANTING goes undercover.
What Happened to Your WANTER?
Do you ask yourself what do I want, and for some reason, no answer comes?
Have you ever told someone I don’t know WHAT I want?
That’s because your WANTER is broke. Well, not broken exactly, but disconnected.
Your what? What is she talking about - what is a WANTER?
Our WANTER is the part of us that desires, that part inside that visualizes something and feels the pull to get it. We were born with an installed WANTER on board. Remember feeling hungry as an infant and yelling your lungs out until someone fed you? Well maybe not, but what about wanting that toy in the checkout counter and throwing a fit when Mom said you couldn’t have it?
Do you remember how BIG your WANTER used to be?
Remember losing your first love and telling everyone you would never do THAT again?
Remember not getting the dream job that you applied for, and how hurt and disappointed you felt. Later you applied for jobs that were easier to get, but well beneath your capabilities?
We WANT. We want little things – like a delicious cup of Starbucks coffee. And we want big things – like a partner to share our life with and help move toward living a purpose filled life. That sense of WANTING and that feeling engages our mind, and we start THINKING about how to get what we want.
Remember that Buddha quote – we become what we think?
We THINK what we WANT into existence. Thoughts become things and manifesting what we think about is one of the things we human beings can do! Everything in life starts with our natural feeling of WANTING!
As you experienced in the last exercise, you have beliefs centered around following another person’s idea of what you SHOULD WANT. You do this instead of following what you DO WANT instead. We ask our parents, our friends, our boss, even strangers on Facebook what we SHOULD do instead of following the inner voice of our soul.
But after we WANT something and experience life’s difficulties, over time, we say NO to our WANTING voice. We do this so many times that the inner voice of our true path begins to speak softer and softer. If we keep saying NO, continue to push it away, it decides to take an extended vacation and doesn’t show up for work at all stopping us from living a purpose filled life.
Let me ask you. Are you happy now, diligently squashing your WANTER every time you feel it nudge your imagination? Do you reject your WANTER to keep yourself from hurting again? Are you willing to ignore your inner WANTING, and risk wasting this lifetime on a second-rate existence?
Would it be worth turning your WANTER back on, full force, if it meant that it was the ONLY WAY ever to experience exquisite joy and the ability to realize the life of your dreams?
The only way toward living a purpose filled life is to turn your WANTER back on. If you sense that I might be right, I invite you to go into WANTER Rehab! If you rehab your WANTER, you can begin reinventing your life. The good news is that WANTER Rehab is simple. Begin by asking yourself, several times a day, what do I want? If you diligently do that, after a few days our WANTER will wake up, stretch its wings, and finally begin doing its job. Keep at it, and your life will start to change in exciting ways. Commit yourself to this discipline, and you might find yourself experiencing more meaning every day.
Exercise: WANTER Rehab
Here are a few questions to start you off. Do your best to FREE your WANTER to speak in its empowered voice. If you feel silly at first, just keep going. Your WANTER will enjoy the workout, and soon the inner voice of your WANTER will be guiding you along your path to living a purpose filled life!
1. What do you want now in your life, that you haven’t allowed yourself to want before?
2. What are you doing when you feel the happiest and most satisfied?
3. If money was no concern, what would you do?
4. What gets you excited? What fires you up?
5. If you could do anything or be anyone, without restrictions or limitations, what would that be?
6. Which causes, charities or social issues matter most to you?
7. What is your own uniquely personal song to sing?
Set Yourself FREE and CREATE your Life
In Nichiren Buddhism, there is a concept that teaches that the pursuit of our earthly desires contributes to spiritual enlightenment. Enlightenment is gaining a deeper and more profound understanding of our spiritual selves as we live a human life. What I’ve learned is that every day provides an opportunity to grow toward my enlightenment. Every new awareness, every time I fall and get back up, every time I give instead of taking, every time I turn a failure into a win, every time I fill my heart with gratitude, every time I listen instead of talk, these moments give me enlightenment. And those moments, as I am living a purpose filled life, allowing what is within me to come forth, is a happy, meaningful and blessed life!
Look for our next post: Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Have you ever thought about hiring a coach? Tresa Leftenant, author of Reinventing HER, Helping Women Plan, Pursue and Capitalize On Their Next Chapter works with women frustrated with their current life circumstances and want a co-pilot to help reinvent their lives. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to see if she is the Life Coach who can help you create a life of meaning and purpose.